Senior Brian Brennan powered Walsh Jesuit and Woodridge scattered runners within the top 12 to win Division I and Division II team titles, respectively, at Saturday’s cross country district meet at Goodyear Heights Metro Park.
Besides the finish, the highlight of the course for spectators is a steep hill about 400 meters from the finish. Brennan trailed Twinsburg’s Garrett Crichlow but knew the base of the hill was the right time to strike.
“I knew they were going to go fast and I didn’t want my adrenaline to take me with them,” Brennan said. “I knew it’s 5K and I could get them throughout the race. I was just staying patient. I saw him hurrying down the hill and I just let myself go.”
Brennan powered past Crichlow after a short turn following the hill and ran a personal best and school record for the course with a time of 15:55.26. His previous best at Goodyear was 16:47.
“I didn’t know I was going to go this fast,” he said.
It is Walsh Jesuit’s 21st district title. The Warriors have now won three years in a row and six of the past seven.
The Walsh team visited the course Friday to jog around and get a feel for it. Brennan, who says the easiest way to run is to hang back with the pack for the first half of the race, told Walsh coach Pat Ritchie he had picked his spot of attack.
“He likes to go out under control and then he picks his point in the race when he’s going to go,” Ritchie said. “That’s what he said last night.”
Walsh had six runners in the top 19 and had a team score of 49, with 30 points dividing them from Hudson, which came in second. Senior Jordan Shepherd finished sixth with a time of 16:23.48. Senior Cole Francetic was 10th and junior Nick Ondracek and seniors Will Nouse and Evan Freeman all finished in the top 20 and under 17 minutes.
After Walsh and Hudson, Solon (80 points), Twinsburg (88), Kenston (119) and Nordonia (152) all advanced to the regional meet.
Hudson senior Vince Moeglin finished second with a time of 16:14.82.
In the Division II race, St. Vincent-St. Mary senior Mick Iacofano had a similar plan to Brennan’s: wait and pounce. With about 200 meters to go, Iacofano was a few steps behind Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy junior Ben Bockoven but had a little more left in his legs for the final kick to the finish line. Iacofano won with a time of 16:11.66, a little over three seconds faster than Bockoven.
“I stayed behind whoever had the lead and sort of rested there,” Iacofano said. “Right after the hill, my goal was to pick up the pace and get closer to the lead person if they had any gap. He was with me coming down the for the final sprint but I had a little more.”
At the same spot where Brennan and Iacofano made their moves, St. V-M coach Dan Lancianese was screaming “How bad do you want it?” Hanging back was Iacofano’s plan all along, and Lancianese knows that. It just drives him crazy.
“That’s the way Mick runs,” Lancianese said. “He likes to size up the field and then try to do what he can in the end. That’s his strategy. I’ll be honest, it drives me to heart attacks. I’m not used to that.”
Woodridge was led by senior Matt Wojcik, who finished third with a time of 16:40.89, his personal best at Goodyear.
“We went out a little faster than I thought,” he said. “CVCA, we thought they’d go slower. It was really tight in the front and I happened to fall twice but kept moving through and got in a position I needed to be in. I turned around and saw my teammates had moved through just like I did.”
Senior Alex Frederick ended up right behind Wojcik in fourth. Senior Sam Scourfield finished sixth and John Harry was 12th.
As a team, Woodridge won with 37 points. CVCA, led by Bockoven and fifth-place finisher sophomore Ryan Adams, and St. V-M tied for second with 53 points. Tallmadge rounded out the qualifiers for the regional with 104 points. Members from each school said that those from Woodridge, CVCA and St. V-M all had an eye on one other.
But in the regional meet at Tiffin next Saturday, Lancianese knows the competition will be about as strong as it can possibly be.
“Regionals are so brutal,” he said. “If you look at the rankings, the top 12 teams in the state all go to Tiffin and only four are getting out. There are a couple teams getting first-place votes like Defiance and Van Wert. So conservatively, if there are five really good teams, one’s not going to states.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.